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The Passing of A Man Frozen In Time

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Set The Scene

  • New York City, Aug. 14, 1945
  • V-J Day (Victory over Japan)
  • Japan officially surrendered to the U.S. in WWII.

Important Context: World War II

  • 400,000+ U.S. troops died (57x more than Global War on Terror)
  • 600,000+ U.S. troops injured (12x more than Global War on Terror)
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The Man:
George Mendonsa

  • Fisherman from Rhode Island who enlisted in the Navy at age 19.
  • On leave, he happened to visit a girl, Rita, who lived in NYC, when they heard of the Japanese surrender.
  • He said he had a soft spot for nurses after watching them care for the battle wounded.
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“Between the excitement of the whole works and probably a few drinks, but most importantly it was the uniform she had. If that girl did not have a nurse’s uniform on, I honestly believe that I never would have grabbed her.”

George Mendonsa later married Rita, who watched him kiss a stranger and stayed by his side for 70+ years.
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The Woman:
Greta Zimmer Friedman

  • Born in Austria, came to America at age 15.
  • She was not a war time nurse, but a dental assistant.
  • She went to Times Square to see if the news was true – the war was over.
  • She had no idea someone had taken her photo & rushed back to work.
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“I felt he was very strong, he was just holding me tight, and I’m not sure I — about the kiss because, you know, it was just somebody really celebrating. But it wasn’t a romantic event. It was just an event of thank God the war is over kind of thing….”

Greta Zimmer Friedman, who married a veteran. She is buried next to him at Arlington National Cemetery.
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Photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt snapped the photo of George & Greta. They met in person again in 1980 - the first time George saw the photo! His wife said when strangers found out he was the 'kissing sailor', "everyone gets a kiss." George died Sunday at 95.

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